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Balance must be found

Charles Israel’s comments in Monday’s Aspen Times do more to illustrate Aspen’s change over the last 20 years than any philosophizing local could ever dream in a year of contemplation.

Referring to his current vision of Aspen as “more sophisticated” and implying that the Red Onion hadn’t bothered to change with the times spoke volumes about the state of Aspen in 2003.

The Red Onion’s tried and true formula of combining Mexican and American food, “Quiet Years” decor, and a party atmosphere were, at one time, the cornerstone of what made Aspen “cool.” There was an era when establishments worthy of the Onion’s funk were a dime a dozen.

Buildings left over from another time were party central for the less-ostentatious celebrities and the old money of days gone by – not to mention the locals. It was during this point in Aspen’s history that this little mountain hamlet became THE PLACE TO BE.

The hot spots of the 1970s have been pushed aside in 2003 to make room for the constantly rotating bevy of bars and restaurants du jour bent on finding the formula to tap Aspen’s nouveau riche party scene.

Which theme works best? Which wine will go with this cherry duck? Can I hire only hot chicks? They come and they go. Yet, despite ignoring the sophisticated whims of the Gulfstream geeks, the funky American and Mexican menu at reasonable prices endures.

This isn’t to say that Mr. Israel has no right to raise his rent, and it’s obvious that a 20-year-old lease will definitely need some tweaking. A reasonable rise in rent isn’t far-fetched, but too much and Mr. Israel may want to consider the headaches of having to contend with the constant turnover that is the proclivity of the current business climate of Aspen.

This will be a business decision on its face and the landlord isn’t necessarily the bad guy. The current owner may look at a reasonable offer from the landlord and decide his profit reduction dictates a move to the beach.

However, the landlord may make it difficult for anything to work but a $20-per-plate pile of pretentiousness. The public can only surmise that if the owners want to continue in business for another decade, and the only reason they won’t is gouging by the landlord, then this should be the last letter we ever read pining for the funkiness of the ski town that made Aspen cool.

We’ll throw out the notion that Aspen is about anything other than money. It would be a very telling report when this comes down if the Times can get the reasoning behind the outcome of this issue on the record. After all, the Times has chosen to make it a subject worthy of front-page publicity.

Mr. Israel’s personal vision of our ski town is his and many others’ perception of the new Aspen. The Red Onion’s funky character is mine. Somewhere in the middle a balance needs to found.

Johnny Boyd

Snowmass Village


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